As the days get colder and drive you inside, you may be looking for ways to keep your children active indoors. One item that can help is an exercise ball. These can provide a variety of benefits, including improvements in balance, coordination, strength, and endurance as well as sensory input. Here are six ways you and your child can use an exercise ball at home.
1. Sitting – have your child sit on the ball while eating a meal, doing homework, watching TV, or playing videogames. This provides your child with the opportunity to move while participating in these stationary activities. It also works on balance, postural control, and core strength.
2. Ball blast – have your child lie on his or her back propping up with elbows. The child’s feet should be in the air with knees bent. Stand a few feet from your child’s feet, and toss the ball. Have the child kick the ball back to you with the bottoms of his or her feet without letting the feet touch the ground between kicks. This is an excellent activity to build core strength and endurance. You may alternatively have the child kneel and hit the ball with his or her hands without touching hands to the floor.
3. Upside down – have your child lie on his or her back on the therapy ball. While holding onto the child’s feet or trunk, roll the ball away from you so that the child’s head goes upside down towards the ground. This provides excellent vestibular input and will also work on core strength as the child sits back up. You can incorporate a game or puzzle by placing pieces behind the child to reach for as you complete this activity.
4. Deep pressure – with the child lying on a soft surface, roll the therapy ball over the child’s body. Ask the child for feedback about the pressure, and don’t be afraid to push relatively hard, especially over arms and legs. This provides the child with deep pressure and is usually very calming.
5. Extension – have the child lie on his or her stomach over the ball. Place a puzzle (or a game such as Connect Four) on a couch or chair at about the child’s eye level. Place the pieces on the floor in front of the child. Have the child reach forward to pick up a piece from the ground and then extend upwards to place into the puzzle. You may need to support the child’s hips throughout. This is a great way to work on the core extensor muscles.
6. Bounce and crash – gather some pillows and cushions on the floor next to the ball. Have your child sit or stand on the ball. Bounce or jump on the ball (you may need to hold the child’s hands or hips) and then fall or jump off into the pillows. This activity provides proprioceptive and vestibular input while also working on balance.